Ben Nevis 19, 1996 (Cadenhead)


After a few very untimely reviews let’s do a couple this week that were bottled closer to the present—just last year, in fact (they’re not available any more either but you can’t have everything). First up, this Ben Nevis 19, 1996 bottled by the usually very reliable Cadenhead in their Small Batch series. I bought this at auction in the UK and the bottle did not come with the dangling paper thingy that contains all the cask details on these releases (is there a name for those things?). The label does say “Small Batch” but Whiskybase tells me there were only 222 bottles released. So, was it actually a single cask? Hard to see how you could blend two or more casks and arrive at so few bottles—unless only a part of the vatting was released here. Anyway, I bought it because ex-bourbon Ben Nevis can offer the tropical fruit that I so love in single malt whisky at a younger age than most distilleries, and because the last Cadenhead’s Small Batch ex-bourbon Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought was just excellent (as was the last ex-sherry Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought). I am happy to say that my hopes were not dashed on the shoals of reality.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 4: PX


And so, the last of the four whiskies in Tomatin’s Cuatro series: the PX. For those who came in late (salute yourself if you get the comics reference), I’ve previously reviewed the Fino, the Manzanilla and the Oloroso releases in this series. All were distilled in 2002, matured for 9 years in ex-bourbon casks and then re-racked into the specific sherry casks for the last three years. I didn’t find too much difference between the Fino and Manzanilla releases; which makes sense, as Fino and Manzanilla sherry are not that far apart, and so the odds that nuances between them would extend to whiskies double matured for three years in ex-Fino and Manzanilla casks were slim to begin with. The Oloroso had darker, leafier notes, more reminiscent of what we’ve come to think of as sherry cask notes, and I expect this PX cask will be similar: both Oloroso and PX sherries are made “oxidatively” and have more in common with each other than they do with Fino or Manzanilla sherries. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Auchroisk 27, 1988 (Cadenhead’s)


One of my great, unexpected whisky pleasures in recent years was the explosion of fruit in an Auchroisk 24, 1990 bottled by Signatory for Binny’s. Ever since then I’ve been on the lookout for Auchroisks of similar age and vintage, in the hopes of striking gold again. Accordingly, when I was in London for a week in the summer of 2016 and saw this bottle at the Cadenhead’s shop, I had few qualms about purchasing it even though the salesman was somewhat vague when I asked if this was indeed a fruity Auchroisk (“it’s smooth,” is all he ventured; but that was an odd experience all around, as previously detailed). I opened it for my local group’s premium tasting earlier this year and after getting back from our much longer sojourn in London in the spring, I drank it down pretty fast. These notes were taken just past the midway point of the bottle. Read on to discover if it too presented a lot of fruit or if it was indeed the quintessence of smoothness.  Continue reading

Bladnoch 22, 1990, Cask 5070


Here is another useless review. This Bladnoch was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2013 by the Raymond Armstrong regime (they bottled it but it was distilled by the previous owners, United Distillers). The Raymond Armstrong era at Bladnoch, sadly, ended a couple of years ago and the new owners have gone the route of premiumization: the very opposite of Raymond’s approach. Well, this bottle is gone too. It was a single bourbon cask. I purchased it (and a few other Bladnochs) when the sale of the distillery was announced, and I opened it for one of my local group’s tastings last year. It did well enough there but I felt it improved as the bottle stayed open in the months following. These notes were taken towards the very end of the bottle when it had faded a bit again. I wish I’d thought of also recording my notes at the top and middle of the bottle. So it goes.
Continue reading

Springbank 15, 2000, Fresh Rum Cask for the Nectar


Another 15 yo whisky, and another that may still be available: I’m in severe danger of losing my “untimely reviews” edge. This was bottled by the distillery for the Nectar, a store in Belgium. It’s a single cask release (though the cask number is not mentioned) of a total of 198 bottles. And that single cask was a fresh rum cask. Now, of course, this doesn’t tell us anything about how many years the rum that had previously been in there had spent in that cask or what kind of rum it was (which, of course, is the same with bourbon cask maturation as well). I assume it would have been an American oak cask. I’m not sure what the story is with the low abv (relatively speaking). As it happens, the last rum cask Springbank I reviewed (this 1998-2014 release from Malts of Scotland) also had an abv below 50% (just a coincidence, I’m sure). I wasn’t hugely taken with that one. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Family Owned Distillery, 15 (The Whisky Exchange)


At the risk of lapsing into relevance, here is a review of another whisky that is still available. It is an exclusive for the Whisky Exchange, who had it as the first release in their somewhat confusingly conceived series called “Time”. Confusing because, as I noted while reviewing the second release in this series (this Benrinnes 20), it’s not clear how drinking whiskies of different ages from different distilleries is supposed to give you much sense of time as a variable—which I think is the rationale of the series. More importantly, however, this is a very good whisky. I was a little surprised to discover today that it’s still available. Perhaps the fact that there’s no distillery name on the bottle has something to do with it? Though you’d think most whisky geeks would just assume this is a Glenfarclas. That’s what I had assumed as well, and my initial pours had borne out that assumption. However, as the bottle has gone on, I could just as easily swear that it is a Balvenie (also a family owned distillery). The language of the TWE listing probably indicates it’s a Glenfarclas: Balvenie is not thought of as being “classically sherried”. Anyway, while I’ve liked this a lot from the get-go, it’s the second half of the bottle that’s really been great—and it’s from that part of the bottle that these notes were taken. Here they are.  Continue reading

Port Charlotte PC7


After a very timely review on Friday (the new Laphroaig Cairdeas) let’s go back to another late 2000s release. This is also from Islay but was released a year after last Monday’s Caol Ila. It’s also a fair bit younger: 7 years old, to be exact. It was the third release in Bruichladdich’s limited edition run towards what became the regular Port Charlotte 10. I’ve not had the PC5; I’ve reviewed the PC6 (good, but nothing special, I thought) and the PC8 (which I really liked). I have unopened bottles of the PC9 and PC10 on the shelf—I’m not sure where the series stands now.

I opened this bottle for my local group’s August tasting. It was a big hit there, garnering some big scores from a few people. I quite liked it too and have been looking forward to sitting down and taking some formal notes. Here they are.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 1984-2007 (Scott’s Selection)


There’s been a lot of conversation on the blog recently about older whiskies that was spurred by a question about an older Pulteney 1977 released by Scott’s Selection in 2005. One of the reasons, I think, that so many of those Scott’s Selection releases from the mid-late 2000s stuck around for so long—and some are still around—is because there was and is so little information on them available. Very few people have reviewed them—and many of us whisky geeks whose wallets have bottoms are quite risk-averse. This is why it took me a long time to get around to finally pulling the trigger on some of those bottles, even if only as part of splits with friends. This Caol Ila, however, I purchased without a second thought when a store in the Twin Cities put it on sale at 15% off last year, bringing the price below $200 (I’d never seen it at the original price and so was able to rationalize the cost against prices for current Caol Ilas of similar age). They had another bottle but the cork was defective and it had leaked at least 50 ml—after tasting this bottle I told the manager I’d take the chance and take it off his hands if he discounted it quite a bit more but he was not willing to do so. I guess that’s a spoiler alert: yes, I quite like this one and have been drinking it down at a steady clip since opening it right after purchase. Here now, before I finish the bottle, are my notes.  Continue reading

Bowmore, Bw5 (Speciality Drinks)


If like me you were ever confused about the relationship between the Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, under whose name all the TWE releases (Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, Whisky Trail etc.) were released, you can add a new name to the mix: Speciality Drinks is history and has been replaced by Elixir Whisky Distillers; or maybe I should say that Speciality Drinks is now named Elixir Whisky Distillers. Apparently, a completely separate operation with the folks who work at the Whisky Exchange’s retail end not involved at all in picking casks etc. (which they may not have been before either, I suppose). This Bowmore, however, was released in the Elements of Islay series before the bottlers’ name changed. I’ve previously reviewed a few Ardbegs (Ar1 and Ar2) and Lagavulins (most recently, the Lg6) and a Laphroaig (Lp1) and a Caol Ila (the Ci1). As you can tell this is the fifth Bowmore they’ve released. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Tomintoul 30, 1985 (Cadenhead)


Please admire the picture of the empty sample bottle at left. I failed to take a photograph of it before drinking the contents. I did remember to take tasting notes on it though, so that’s something.

I have so far reviewed only four Tomintouls on the blog. Only one was a young expression and that was a 8 yo from some decades ago. The others may well have been distilled around the same time as that one but were bottle at much older ages: a 45 yo for Chester Whisky, a 44 yo released in the US by Samaroli and a 42 yo from Kintra Whisky. I liked them all. For a while at least, super-aged Tomintouls from the late 1960s were ubiquitous and given the distillery’s low-key reputation, not very expensive. This one is also old—though not quite as old as those three indies—but is from 1985. It’s a single cask bottled by Cadenhead last year, I believe. And as with so many Cadenhead releases from Speyside distilleries it bears the Glenlivet suffix, which I was under the impression the Glenlivet distillery had long ago managed to prevent other distilleries from using. If anyone knows how Cadenhead gets to keep using it, please let me know. Continue reading

Aultmore 19, 1997 (Cadenhead’s)


Here is the fourth of five minis I purchased from Cadenhead’s shop in London in early May. They were all from their early 2017 outturn, I believe. I have previously reviewed the Pulteney 11, 2006, the Balmenach 12, 2004 and the Glen Spey 15, 2001: in order of increasing age, and I liked them pretty much in that order. If the pattern holds I should like this Aultmore 19 even more than I did the Glen Spey—which will be good as none of the others got me very excited. I’ve had and reviewed very few Aultmores before this but have liked the others—including the official 12 yo. My hopes are therefore high on that count as well.

(I seem to have unaccountably not taken a separate picture of this mini before opening it, drinking the contents and throwing the bottle away, but, if you hold up a magnifying glass and squint, you can see it right behind the Glen Spey.)  Continue reading

Glen Grant 22, 1992 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Here is the last of the Glen Grants I’d said I’d review back in February; and it’s the last Glen Grant I’ll probably review for a while. Like the Whisky-fässle and Maltbarn bottles I reviewed recently, this is also from 1992, but it is two years older than those two. It’s also unlike them in that it’s smoky, which I was not quite expecting. Now, the Whisky Exchange’s notes do mention “a distinct whiff of wood smoke” but there’s quite a bit more than a whiff here—everyone in my local tasting group remarked it when the bottle was opened earlier this year and if anything it’s got stronger as the bottle’s stayed open. In fact, I would say it’s smokier than indicated in Whisky Magazine’s notes, which do mention smoke. Surprisingly, Serge Valentin’s notes on Whiskyfun don’t mention smoke at all—that one’s a bit of a head-scratcher; there are no notes on it on Whiskybase. If you’ve had it, please write in and let me know if you found no/faint/palpable smoky notes.  Continue reading

Glenrothes 1980-2005 (Scott’s Selection)


I’ve not reviewed much Glenrothes on the blog, even though I keep saying I should review more. This is mostly because my interest in Glenrothes peaked and then faded before I started the blog. There isn’t much independently bottled Glenrothes around, and official Glenrothes, despite their unique bottles and their idiosyncratic approach to vintages and age statements, began to taste a little too generic to me: they were rarely poor but they never got me too excited. I quite liked the 1985-2005 and a 1991-2006 (neither of which I have reviewed) but nothing since has really made me want to seek out more—and the few tastes I’ve had of their more recent non-vintage/NAS offerings have been less encouraging still. (Though I do have one much older official release that I found in a now-closed supermarket in Los Angeles’ Koreatown a couple of years ago at more or less the original price. I’m saving that one for a special occasion.)  Continue reading

Glen Grant 20, 1992 (Whisky-Fässle)


Last week, I had a review of a Glen Grant 20, 1992 from a German bottler (Maltbarn). This week I have another. This one is from a bourbon hogshead and the bottler is Whisky-Fässle, whose releases I’ve generally had good luck with (though I’ve not reviewed many on the blog). I opened this bottle earlier this year along with the Maltbarn, a 23 yo from Whisky Import Nederland and another from 1992 bottled by the Whisky Exchange (review coming soon), all as part of a Glen Grant vertical for a subset of my local tasting group. We all liked this one more than the Maltbarn then, though the family resemblance was/is very strong. I drank the bottle down rather quickly after my return from London about a month ago—like the Maltbarn, it’s a particularly good summer malt—and I think I may have enjoyed the second half of the bottle more than the first. Here, before it’s all gone, are my notes. Continue reading